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“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
Last week, Billy Graham passed away at the age of 99. Plenty of articles have been written in memoriam about his life all over the internet, and I have read a number of them. I wanted to take this opportunity to focus on two words that showed up most regularly when these writers remember Billy Graham, and consider why these character traits are so worthy of honor and emulation.
The first word is integrity. Billy Graham lived his life on a grand scale, in the public eye, and in a profession that has increasingly become stained by charlatans and televangelists and faith-healers whose theological, financial, and sexual shenanigans distract from the gospel. Billy Graham undoubtedly had many people who would have loved to take him down, expose him as a fake, or find reason to impugn his moral character. But incredibly, he never had a financial or moral scandal in his 70 years of ministry. On the contrary, he made sure that his financial accounting for his crusades was publicized in the local papers, just to ensure that he would be above reproach. And he famously refused to be alone with any woman outside of his family, again, just to make sure he was above reproach. He took a modest salary, lived in a modest home, remained faithful to his wife, raised his children to know the Lord, and lived his life to honor Jesus and preach the gospel.
The second word is sincerity. Many people commented that while Billy Graham may not have been the best preacher, and even though there are so many people opposed to the gospel message, there was no doubting Billy Graham’s sincerity. It was clear that he wholeheartedly believed the gospel, that apart from trusting in Christ for the forgiveness of sins, people would be lost to eternal damnation for all eternity. He was willing to go to the ends of the earth to proclaim that message. It was that sincerity, coupled undoubtedly with the conviction of the Holy Spirit, that led so many people to take seriously the message of the gospel and put their trust in Jesus.
Billy Graham was not perfect. He needed the saving grace of Jesus just as much as you and me. But we would do well to learn from his integrity and his sincerity. Jesus said that “blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” To be pure in heart is to desire Jesus and His will for our lives above all other things. That is where true integrity comes from, so that at all times and in all situations, we live to honor God. And the more we come to know Jesus and experience His transforming love, the more we will emanate the sincerity that comes from believing the gospel with our whole heart and genuinely loving our neighbor as ourselves. May God make us into men and women of integrity and sincerity, so that He might be glorified through our lives.
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